PEI

Proposed campaign finance reforms would ban corporate, union donations

Government is proposing changes to the Elections Expenses Act which will prohibit corporations and unions from donating.

Individual donations would be limited to $3K per year

The proposed changes suggest donations be limited to people who live on P.E.I. or intend to live here when they're away. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Government is proposing changes to the Elections Expenses Act which will prohibit corporations and unions from donating.

According to amendments to the Elections Expenses Act tabled in the house Thursday, individual donations would be limited to $3,000 per year, per party or independent candidate. An increase of $50 per year is proposed to keep up with inflation. 

And any contribution to an association or organization of a political party will be considered to be a contribution made to that party.

The proposed changes suggest donations be limited to people who live on P.E.I. or intend to live here when they're away.

'Big move' for P.E.I. 

Premier Wade MacLauchlan had proposed banning corporate and union donations back in 2016 — then backtracked — and is now proposing his original idea again.

"Through further discussion and through further developments including positions of other parties it became clear that others were comfortable with the position that I had originally laid out," said Premier Wade MacLauchlan.

"Now we have three ways in which this is being I'll say dealt with, in a way that it has not before," said MacLauchlan. "This is a big move for our province and indeed it's something that we've been committed to." 

Consistent with federal guidelines, province says

The changes would also include prohibiting anonymous contributions. Currently, donations under $250 can be anonymous. 

The province says the changes are consistent with federal guidelines and levels in other provinces. 

There's also a wider definition of what contributions are — including any property or services provided free of charge or less than market value, and any fees paid for political party membership. 

Any money donated in the calendar year prior to the amendments taking effect would not need to be refunded. 

Positive step, says Green leader

Under the new act, candidates would also get back more money from government to repay them for election expenses. It's suggested that go up from 75 cents to $1 per vote.

Green Leader Peter Bevan Baker has made election finance reform a priority in the questions he's put forward this sitting. 

"I'm very happy and whatever caused the Premier to change his mind, I don't know, but I'm delighted that he has," said Bevan-Baker. 

Bevan-Baker said the proposed changes would bring P.E.I. more into line with best practices across the country, is a positive step forward, and he applauds government for them. 

Green Leader Peter-Bevan Baker has been pushing for election finance reform. (Ken Linton/CBC)

"It's been a long-time coming, but I'm glad that's there and I think it's going to a large extent restore Islanders' trust in not just elections, but in government in general."

Now any third party advertising, even below $100, for a registered party or candidate is counted as a contribution. The changes propose that advertising facilities now include the Internet.  

The changes still need to be voted on and any changes would come after that time.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Krystalle Ramlakhan is a multi-platform journalist with CBC Ottawa. She has also worked for CBC in P.E.I., Winnipeg and Iqaluit.

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